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Inca Path to Choquequirao


Cuzco/Inca Heartlands Area,  Peru

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Walkopedia rating98
Beauty
34
Natural interest
15
Human interest
17
Charisma
35
Negative points
(3)
Total rating
98

 Vital statistics

Length:
4 or 7 days
 
(Includes day at the ruins.)
Maximum Altitude: over 3,000m (4,500m on 7 day trek)
Level of Difficulty: Difficult

Key information: Inca Path to Choquequirao

  • Walk this trail, much of it on ancient Inca paths, to the "lost" city of Choquequirao.
     
  • Wonderful views of the high Andes, and at the end the magnificent, partially-excavated remains in their spectacular setting.
  • Less famous than its "sister" trail to Machu Picchu - but just as beautiful, historic and thrilling, and emptier and less spoilt. 
  • This is a tough walk in high, remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient and where altitude can cause real problems. Come prepared.


Walk summary

The remote Inca city of Choquequirao, where the last Inca royalty retreated after the Spanish conquered Cuzco, is superbly preserved, wonderfully sited ? and much emptier than Machu Picchu, its more famous ?sister site?.

Excavations only really started here in the 1970s, and only 30% has been recovered to date. Despite this, some claim that it is as spectacular as Machu Picchu, and many feel it to be more atmospheric as a result of its remoteness and the tough trek to get to it.

When it comes to your Choquequirao trek you aren?t lacking in choices:

Four-day trek: the ?standard? Choquequirao trek means 4 days out-and-back from Cachora, c. 150km west of Cuzco. (Add an extra day at Choquequirao itself.)

This trek is demanding, with longer ascents and descents than the ?Classic? Inca Trail. It does not, however, go as high as the Classic Trail, instead descending 1,300m from Cachora before climbing back for 1,500m, in and out of the superb Apurimac gorge, to Choquequirao at a bit over 3,000m.

The trail is good and often follows the ancient paths. It passes through superb scenery ? 7,000m mountains ? that cries out to be admired in the clear dry season. Traverse the sides of deep, deep gorges, drop to sweaty jungle by their distant riversides, cross high passes with huge views.

You eventually achieve a Machu Picchu-esque first view of the city, laid out across a huge ridge with outstanding views of vast, snowy peaks all round.

*******

Seven-day trek: the longer trek keeps to the ?standard? route?s first 2 days to Choquequirao, before balking at its return to instead descend northwards away from the ruins.

A day to explore Choquequirao, before taking the trail, is a must; then immediately pass more Inca ruins (Pincha Unuyoc) before winding around the 5,404m Corihuaynachina massif on its eastern and northern flanks. Cross a dubious bridge, when it?s even there, over the Rio Blanco (Rio Victoria) en route to the town of Maizal; then climb into high cloud forest and back out, descending towards Yanama.

Here the path splits off left (turning north again) for 3 days through punas, pampas, valleys and gorges, in gradually easier terrain, to the west of the towering Sacrachayoc range, heading towards Huancacalle. In the shelter of lonely Panta mountain (west of the trail) lie the Inca ruins of Arma.

The trek finally ends at Huancacalle, perhaps 200km by road from Cuzco along the Rio Vilcabamba valley. Or, take the Vilcabamba Trail [Link] onwards, spilling out from the highlands and massifs to yet more Incan ruins.

*******

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu (9-10 days): superb, high Andean traverse between the two Incan strongholds. Very long, very remote, and absolutely thrilling.

*******

Permits aren?t required for the ?standard? 4-day trek - although you do need to pay fees (as at 2011). You will need a permit for when you get to, or if you start from/towards, Machu Picchu (Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek ? see above).

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

Research essentials

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Practical information for Walking in Cuzco/Inca Heartlands Area, Peru, Inca Path to Choquequirao

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk     

The Inca Trail, Cuzco & Machu Picchu – Alexander Stewart, Trailblazer. A complete and very detailed guide.

Peru: Exploring Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Inca Trail, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Lima and Beyond  - V!VA Travel Guides (Ricardo Segreda and Crit Minster): has an excellent, up-to-date section on additional treks and activities boasted by the Sacred Valley.

Other books

Peru – Lonely Planet. Recommended.

Backpacking and Trekking in Peru and Bolivia – Bradt

The Rough Guide to Peru – (recommended by Richard Danbury in a previous Trailblazer)

Peru Handbook – Footprint

Fujimori’s Peru – ed. John Crabtree and Jim Thomas

The Incas and their Ancestors – Michael Moseley

The Conquest of the Incas – John Hemming

Lost City of the IncasHiram Bingham

Machu Picchu – John Hemming

Chapters in Classic Treks – Ed. Bill Birkett; Trek! The Best Trekking in the World – Claes Grundsten.

Maps

Rough Guide Map Peru.

Trailblazer has good basic maps.

Detailed maps can be difficult to come by.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. Online specialist source of worldwide maps. Also try www.mapsworldwide.com and www.trektools.com.

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

April to October. Late April and May are best. June, July and August are over-busy (and, indeed, the Classic Inca Trail can get booked out). June, July and August get very cold at night. October and April can be very wet – but not necessarily miserable as long as you are well protected and in the right mental space.

Other times of year are doable – but usually very wet.

Weather

Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

 

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

Add a comment

Many people coming from Europe will use Iberia from Madrid to Lima. American Airlines flies there from Miami. Various airlines from Lima to Cuzco.

Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital, is the starting point for almost all Inca Trail treks. It is high, so take time to acclimatize properly – there is lots to see and do in this area.

For the four-day hike, begin at Cachora, north of Abancay (on the road west out of Cuzco).

For the seven-day Choquequirao trek, continue on from Choquequirao to Huancacalle (200km by road along the Rio Vilcabamba valley; arduous bus journeys available).

Permits are not needed to do this walk (as at 2011), although you do pay fees. Expedition organisers should arrange these.

 

Route(s)

Add a comment

See Walk Summary above.

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Altitude: likely to affect you. Acclimatize appropriately, with some day walking in the area (usually around Cuzco), come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
  • Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Some of the trails can get very slippery when wet. Come prepared.
  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
  • Harmful animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • Beware of dogs: throw stones if they threaten, keep well clear if possibly rabid.
  • This is remote country: food and other supplies will not be readily available and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
  • Thieves, pickpockets and even muggers can lurk, in towns and on the trails. Read up and take all appropriate precautions. A guide / porter is helpful.
  • Be sensitive about photographing people. Are you sure they want to be photographed? Ask permission if in doubt.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do most of these walks independently, but the high routes are demanding walks and suitable for the experienced and fully prepared only; and some are required to be organised by approved operators.

Guided/supported

Most people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Given the remoteness of the country, many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Organisers will also arrange for permits to be obtained.

You will pay less if you arrange an expedition locally, but you will have to take care as there are some unscrupulous operators.

If you are booking with a company, make sure you are using a reputable firm. Rip-offs are common, especially with online booking. Responsible travel means trying to ensure porter welfare and fair pay: try to use a responsible company (which can be hard to assess), and assume that very cheap expeditions may be thus because the porters are being underpaid. Complain if you think the porters are not looked after well. Check that operators guarantee to secure permits.

A middle course, and perhaps the preferable one (in that it provides flexibility and reduced burden to carry while enabling a small group), would be to hire a porter/guide or an arriero (muleteer with mules, invariably two). Note that mules are not allowed on the trails between Huayllabamba and Machu Picchu. They can be hired through agencies or in some villages, which can be preferable from the point of view of getting money into the local economy. Non-porter guides are in theory hirable, but can be hard to find. Meet him/her/them and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat, overnighting and, of course, remuneration!

Expedition organisers include:


Accommodation

Add a comment

There is a huge range of possible accommodation in Cuzco. The guidebooks have a selection. There are various accommodation websites. Search “Cuzco accommodation”. Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.

Camping is almost always the only realistic option on the trails.

 

Other information and tips

Add a suggestion

The local Andean people recommend chewing coca leaves to ease altitude sickness – it’s possible to buy a bag of coca, along with binding mineral, at most local stores and markets in the area.

Befriend your porters, treat them with respect, and tip generously for good service.

 

Useful websites and information

Add a comment

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us. 

 

Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

See the Trailblazer guide for a selection of other (including short) walks in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley/Inca heartlands areas.

Peru has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be. See our Inca Trails overview page, plus:

Other activities

Explore the Cuzco and Sacred Valley areas.

Shopping, if you must

We are not a shopping website. But, there are lots of genuinely interesting and beautiful things about and anything bought from local people must be of some help to this desperately poor area. So, wallets out!

Community comments and photos

Name: David Briese
Posted on: 08/12/2011

Many thanks to David Briese’s Photodiary of a Nomad for allowing us to quote from his Choquequirao and Machu Picchu pages.

Day 1; Cachora to Chiquissca (16km; 250m ascent/1200m descent)

Leaving the village, our arriero, Felix, led us down through pastures on a dirt road. We soon started to climb gently, while the valley to our right fell away sharply as it joined the magnificent Apurimac Canyon. Before long, we were walking along its steep upper slope and, on odd occasions, could see right down to the river, 1300m below.

This long traverse took us to a viewpoint with impressive vistas both up and down the canyon. To the west, the track started its long descent into the canyon and we headed off into the late afternoon sun, descending a series of long switchbacks that traversed back and forward across the green, grassy upper slopes.

The traverse then dropped sharply. We continued on, along another long ridge across this level in the failing light. One last steep and winding descent led us to the rustic campsite at Chiquissca, 200m above the canyon floor.

Day 2; Chiquissca to Choquequirao (13km; 300m descent/1600m ascent)

We set off early, descending the last few hundred metres to the bottom of the Apurimac Canyon, the soft roar of the river gradually getting louder as we approached it.

After signing in at the track checkpoint, we crossed the suspension bridge over the fast-flowing Apurimac River. The early morning sun couldn't yet reach into the depths of the canyon and we started our 1400m ascent of its northern wall in welcome cool shade.

Pushing on into ever greener vegetation, we finally emerged from the shadows into the sun at about 500m into the climb.

Passing the 1000m mark, we were beginning to feel the effort as the path steepened and the pace slowed. Across the canyon, we could see the faint trace of yesterday's track disappearing into depths below. The whole aspect of the canyon was changing as the rising sun lit up the green-covered higher walls.

After lunch, we set off towards Choqeuquirao, meandering and undulating across the steep jungle-clad canyon wall, twice dropping down only to recover our elevation with short sharp climbs. The vegetation was taking on a distinct tropical air.

Rounding a bend, we were greeted with the spectacle beneath us of the agricolas andenes, the terraced gardens of the incan people, perched on the edge of a precipice of a side gorge leading off the Apurimac Canyon.

We crossed a stream in front of a long waterfall, source of irrigation water for the terraces, for one last climb and short descent to the campsite at Casa de Caida de Agua.

© David Briese. See his full account and much more in his fantastic website www.gang-gang.net/nomad.


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Apurimac River From Choquequirao - © From Flickr user Roubicek

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

See our Fun page for some entertainment and to read about our travel writing and other competitions.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Choquequirao - © From Flickr user Rick McCharles

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more